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If you’ve ever found yourself with a bottle of moisturizer in your hand wondering if it should go on before or after your sunscreen, you’re not alone. With an arsenal of skin care products, it can be overwhelming to try and figure out the best skincare order in which to apply them. But don’t worry – it’s not as mysterious as it might seem.

What’s important to know is …

Skincare Order Matters

Applying skin care products in the correct order ensures that your skin receives the maximum nourishing benefits that each product has to offer. If applied in the wrong order, skin care products can lose their effectiveness, or they may not work at all. For example, the thin consistency of a serum will prevent it from penetrating your skin if it has to fight through the heavy, creamy layer of a moisturizer.

And keep in mind that timing matters too. Some products need a little more time to absorb into the skin, while others do their best work when applied in close combination with other products.

The Correct Skincare Order

Ready to solve the mystery of when to apply which skin care products? A good rule of thumb is to work from thinnest consistency to thickest. Here are the exact steps to take to apply your skincare products, in order:

1. Cleanser

Skincare Order | Beverly Hills MDA proper skin care routine starts with a clean slate, and one of the best ways to get a clean slate is to start with a cleansing oil. Now, it might sound strange to use an oil on your face to cleanse it, but it is a good first step because oil is an extremely effective makeup remover.

You see – oil attracts oil, so a cleansing oil actually loosens up the makeup on your face so it can be easily removed.

After you’ve loosened up the makeup on your face, it’s time to use a face wash. The face wash will cleanse away dirt, impurities, and any remaining makeup or cleansing oil residue. And a face wash with antioxidant and moisturizing ingredients can give your skin protective, anti-aging benefits.

2. Exfoliant

You don’t want to exfoliate every day, but using an exfoliant once or twice a week will help slough away dead skin cells and encourage healthy cell turnover. This will help give your skin a bright, polished glow. Exfoliating is especially important as you age, since cell turnover slows down, and a buildup of dead cells can occur.1

You can gently scrub with a physical exfoliant, which will buff away dead skin. You can also use a chemical exfoliant with ingredients like alpha-hydroxy or retinol, which exfoliate cells from the inside-out.2

3. Toner

A good toner will help remove any lingering oil on your skin – along with the chlorine, salts, and minerals commonly found in tap water.3 Toners may also contain soothing and nourishing ingredients that help bring skin back to its natural acidic state and prep it to receive moisture.

Don’t wait more than one minute after cleansing the skin to apply toner – molecules tend to penetrate wet skin more easily. Apply to a cotton pad and gently swipe the toner on your face, working outward.

4. Spot Treatments (Night)

You want to apply spot treatments like dark spot correctors and acne treatments as close to your bare skin as possible. This guarantees that their powerful ingredients do their maximum work in your trouble zones. Allow 5 minutes for these treatments to absorb into your skin before layering on the next product – you don’t want anything to counteract their heavy-duty lifting.

5. Serums (Night)

Skincare Order | Beverly Hills MDNext to spot treatments, serums are the most concentrated and nutrient-dense skin care product. Applying them closer to bare skin because means you’re getting a hefty dose of potent ingredients without interference from other products.

Since they tend to be lightweight, serums need to be applied to the skin directly, so they don’t have to fight through other products. If a serum is applied after a moisturizer, the moisturizer will block it from penetrating the skin. And you don’t want that serum to go to waste!

There are a wide variety of serums, so look for ingredients that cater to the needs of your specific skin type. Here are some common skin types and serum solutions:

6. Sheet Masks (Night)

Have you given sheet masks a whirl yet? Originating in South Korea – where an intensive skin care regimen is the norm – sheet masks are a convenient way to deliver a big dose of nourishing ingredients to the skin.

The masks are made of cotton, paper, or cellulose and drenched in “essences.” These essences contain nutrients and moisturizers that the skin loves. And, because these essences are literally sealed in by the mask, all those good nutrients get a chance to sink deeply into your skin, instead of evaporating into the air.9

You can apply a sheet mask after letting your serum sink in for several minutes.

Let the mask work its magic for 15 to 20 minutes. Then, remove the mask and throw away – no rinsing or complicated clean-up involved.

And sheet masks aren’t harsh on your skin. You can use them as a weekly boost to your skincare routine or, if you’re truly committed, you can use one every night.

7. Eye Cream

Eye cream is of utmost importance. The skin around the eyes is exceptionally thin and prone to developing wrinkles and fine lines. Keeping this delicate skin well-moisturized will help preserve its elasticity and may help diminish the appearance of fine lines.

Since the skin around the eye is so fragile, use a light touch. Avoid rubbing moisturizer in – gently tap it in with your ring finger instead.

8. Moisturizer

Skincare Order | Beverly Hills MDMoisturizers are one of the last products you apply to your face. Since moisturizers tend to be thick and creamy, applying them any earlier would block thinner products from sinking into your complexion.

Moisturizers also have occlusive properties, and applying them last will help seal in all the beauty-boosting ingredients you’ve already applied.10

A lightweight moisturizer can help keep skin hydrated throughout the day, while a heavier night cream can do more serious work while you sleep – when your skin does its most reparative work.11

Apply immediately after your eye cream, when your skin is still damp from the serum or leftover sheet mask essence. A little dampness helps lock in hydration.

9. Sunscreen (Day)

Give your moisturizer a couple of minutes to absorb before applying SPF. If you apply too quickly, the water in your moisturizer may dilute the sunscreen, making it less effective.

And since sun exposure is one of the chief contributors to the visible signs of aging – never skip this step before heading out for the day. Just apply a nickel-sized dollop, and gently massage onto your face and decolletage.

Skin Care Steps – Simplified

The correct skincare order can make a world of difference. Moving from thinner ingredients to thicker, more occlusive products will ensure that you’re reaping the full benefits of each product. And if you ever get lost again, just refer back to these steps. Mystery solved!


Learn More About Skincare:
Stop Exfoliating Your Skin with Baking Soda! (3 reasons why)
Travel Skincare Tips: How to Step off the Plane with Fresh Skin
Why Serum is Essential for Youthful-Looking Skin